October 3, 2023

Dispelling the Myths behind DDoS Protection


DDoS attacks are among the greatest cyber threats in today's digital landscape. While launching such an attack may be relatively straightforward, effectively safeguarding a website or network against it can be a complex undertaking. Drawing on Nexuguard’s extensive experience, let’s take a look at the five most common myths surrounding DDoS protection. 


Myth 1: Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) Provide Total Protection


Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can significantly improve the speed, reliability, and scalability of web services, but to say that they offer "total protection" is indeed a myth. Here's why:

  • 1. Limited Scope of Protection: CDNs primarily work by caching and distributing content across different geographical locations to reduce latency and improve site load time. While some CDNs offer features that can help mitigate certain types of attacks (like DDoS attacks), they are not designed to protect against all types of cyber threats. Advanced persistent threats, insider threats, malware, and application-specific vulnerabilities usually fall outside the protective scope of a CDN.

    2. Security is not the Primary Function: While many CDNs provide some security features, their primary function is to improve website performance. This means that while they can be part of a robust cybersecurity strategy, they cannot replace dedicated security solutions such as Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) or Endpoint Protection Platforms.

    3. Single Point of Failure: If a CDN service experiences an outage or a security breach, all sites relying on that CDN could be affected. For example, in 2021, a configuration issue in Fastly, a popular CDN provider, led to a significant portion of the internet going down, including many high-traffic websites. Furthermore, CDN servers have been targeted in specific attacks, such as the RangeAmp attacks, which exploit vulnerabilities in HTTP range requests to amplify traffic and overwhelm the targeted servers. These attacks have the potential to disrupt the availability and performance of websites relying on affected CDNs, further highlighting the potential risks associated with relying solely on a single CDN provider.

    4. Data Privacy Concerns: Using a CDN means that your data is being stored on servers not owned by your company. If the CDN provider does not have strong security measures in place, your data could be at risk. Additionally, CDNs can also present data compliance issues, particularly for organizations that deal with sensitive user data.

    5. Potential for Increased Attack Surface: While CDNs do offer protection against certain types of attacks, they can also potentially increase your attack surface. Attackers who can find a way into the CDN network might gain access to data from multiple websites.

So, while CDNs can contribute to a layered security approach, they cannot offer total protection. It’s important to use a balanced combination of defensive measures, including CDNs, WAFs, secure code practices, regular software updates, and robust access controls to ensure comprehensive security.


Myth 2: Firewalls Can Safeguard Against DDoS Attacks

Despite their widespread use, firewalls are not sufficient in fending off modern DDoS attacks and can, in fact, become the primary target of such an attack. One of the core challenges with modern firewalls is their stateful nature, which necessitates the tracking of traffic flows to ensure efficient and effective protection. However, the constraints on the internal memory and processing resources required to track traffic flows make firewalls a vulnerable target for perpetrators. Cyber attackers can exploit specific attack techniques to saturate the firewall's limited resources, ultimately leading to the network being taken offline.

This underscores the critical need for organizations to adopt additional DDoS mitigation strategies that go beyond the use of firewalls. While firewalls can provide some level of protection, they are not enough to prevent attacks that are specifically designed to overwhelm their resources.


Myth 3: Inline DDoS Mitigation Appliances Deliver Faster DDoS Protection

The misconception surrounding this myth is rooted in the belief that placing a DDoS mitigation appliance directly in the path of incoming traffic will lead to a significantly faster response time during an attack. The idea is that since the appliance is positioned inline, it can promptly detect and counter any DDoS attack.

In reality, the speed at which a DDoS mitigation appliance operates becomes inconsequential when the network link becomes congested due to a large-scale attack. The appliance's effectiveness diminishes in such scenarios, rendering its placement in the network irrelevant. In modern day hybrid DDoS protection, inline appliances are primarily designed to mitigate small-scale local application attacks, while the task of mitigating larger-scale volumetric attacks is handled by cloud-based solutions.

Furthermore, inline appliances can introduce a potential point of failure within the network. If the appliance experiences any issues like hardware failure, software glitches, or being overwhelmed by a large-scale attack, all traffic passing through it could be affected, potentially resulting in a network outage.

While inline DDoS mitigation appliances can be a part of an effective defense strategy, their ability to provide faster DDoS protection is negligible merely due to their placement in the network. A comprehensive DDoS protection strategy should incorporate a combination of defense mechanisms, including on-premise solutions complemented with cloud-based solutions, tailored to the specific needs and risks of the organization.


Myth 4: Blackholing and Rate Limiting Are Acceptable Defense Mechanisms

DDoS mitigation providers frequently rely on blackholing as a defensive measure to protect other customers when a particular asset comes under attack. However, blackholing can have unintended consequences, such as taking the targeted asset offline and potentially achieving the attacker's objective. Furthermore, other customers may inadvertently experience collateral damage, including degraded performance or even complete service disruption, depending on the provider's infrastructure.

Another common response is rate limiting, which involves dropping a significant portion of legitimate traffic to give the perception that the asset or service is still operational. However, while this approach may seem like a viable solution, it fails to address the underlying issue and does not provide a successful outcome for the targeted customer.

Myth 5: Allow/Block Lists Can Control Access

Reliance on block/allow lists as the sole means of controlling network access is not a wise or effective strategy. These lists are inherently static, reflecting past activity and quickly becoming outdated as new threats emerge. While they can help to reduce unwanted traffic, their effectiveness is limited when faced with targeted DDoS attacks, which often originate from sources that would not typically be considered suspicious and may already be included on block lists.


Final Thoughts

The above misconceptions about DDoS attacks are merely a glimpse of the numerous myths that exist. Unfortunately, too many people lack awareness of the severe implications that a DDoS attack can have on an organization or lack the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions.

To ensure the safety and security of your online assets, it’s highly advisable to consider enlisting the services of a professional DDoS security solutions provider. With the assistance and expertise of a trusted industry leader like Nexusguard, you can rest assured that your online assets are protected with the most advanced and comprehensive DDoS security solutions available. With over 15 years of experience and a proven track record of success, Nexusguard is well-equipped to handle even the most complex cyber threats and provide unparalleled protection for your business.


For more details on Nexusguard’s array of DDoS Protection solutions, please click here, or click here to talk with one of our experts.

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